It’s hard to believe another year has passed. For the second year in a row, Cask Days was held at Evergreen Brick Works. This has been my third year in attendance. The first time I went it was at Hart House, the second was the Brick Works. Every year the event is a little larger, a little more involved. For those of you that do not know about Cask Days, well, you can catch up here. There’s a bit of a history, starting on the Barvolo patio and evolving into what we see now. It’s impressive, and inspiring.
You buy a ticket, you get tokens, and you sample a myriad selection of cask beers. Typical beer event structure. But this is no typical beer event. With a handy ‘Cask Days’ mason jar in hand, and a bunch of friends to share in the festivities, you push through the crowds, moving from sections divided mainly by province. A bit of food can be found, but lets be honest, we are here for the casks. And the casks are what really make it different. Sure, the music is alright, they now have some cool art up along one of the walls, but we go to taste beer.
The event itself is split into three sessions: afternoon, evening, afternoon again. Last year I experienced to the evening session, so this year I figured I’d try the first afternoon. Casks were split up, so some were only served at a specific session, making each session a little different. This year also saw an expanded cider selection, and a few gluten free beers for the celiacs in the crowd. Above is one of the ciders, the West Avenue Barret Fullers Secret, which is bourbon barrel aged, and quite delicious. Strong bourbon scent, but a real nice compliment with the tart apple. This would be my second favourite of the whole afternoon.
Overall, Cask Days is one of the best events for a beer drinker who wants to expand their tastes. You avoid the jock/frat boy mentality that comes with Beer Fest, but you do have to put up with an increase of yuppie hipster. Fair trade? I think so.
This year also saw a change to the pint glasses they gave out for the last two years. (This year it was a mason jar, and I have to say I’m a little disappointed…I had a nice spot on the shelf lined up to sit next to my other two pint glasses. I am not putting a mason jar up alongside pint glasses, though I guess I could put a lid on it, pickle some beets.)
So let’s get to the beer already.
There is stout, IPA, porter, imperial everything, kölsch, smoked pumpkin, english bitter, scotch ale, sour red and golden ale. There are so many styles of beers, you start wondering if a few are just made up for the hell of it. Search the aisles by province, though Ontario has the biggest selection by far. Quebec and BC are not far behind, though that is simply due to the close proximity to Toronto, and not a sign of quality or quantity. A small selection of UK beers can be found, off in the corner, but note you are gonna pay double (and yes, most are worth it) for those. People are everywhere, smiling and sipping. Pushing my way through, I must have heard the phrase “dude, we have to start our own brewery” half a dozen times.
So here’s some of what I had.
My favourite was the Whistler Brewing Company’s Imperial Espresso Black Tusk Ale. Very strong aroma of coffee, followed by a great dark ale flavour. Seriously, it was like I was holding a coffee in my hand, then I’d drink it and lo and behold, beer! My second favourite was West Avenue Barret Fullers Secret. So what, it was cider? Cider counts. It was damn delicious. Third was Alley Kat’s Dragon Series (Single Hop, Double IPA). Alley Kat is a brewery out in Alberta, and this beet was worth pushing my way through the milling crowds. A good hop taste, and the double IPA was fantastic. Alley Kat does a special single hopped Double IPA dragon every two months, each one named after a different colour of dragon. Tasty, and pretty cool.
All in all, Cask Days rocks. If you can handle the crowds, some costumes, and some downright preppy hipsters, you’ll taste some of the best beers you’ve ever had. Keep your eyes peeled, senses honed, for when they announce for 2014.